The Virtual Interview – What you need to know

The virtual interview isn’t new, as anyone who works in recruitment knows. However, it is becoming increasingly popular with clients, who now use the three major video-calling apps Facetime, WhatsApp or Skype to speak to candidates where in the past interviews would have been conducted face-to-face. Video calls with more than one interviewer on screen are what every candidate should expect for at least part of the hire process these days. And it’s now common for successful candidates and employers not to meet in person until they start the job.

One such candidate is Christina Trueb, who I placed in the position of Finance Operations Executive in a travel company recently. She got the job after an initial phone call followed by two virtual interview video calls.

Christina’s experience was positive, but she highlighted a couple of issues that clients and candidates should be aware of before doing a virtual interview. She said, ‘With Facetime, it’s very odd seeing yourself on the screen while you’re being interviewed – it made me feel quite self-conscious, and I had to try not to look at myself. But overall the process was good. They wanted to fill the position quickly – which suited me – and so one manager actually Facetimed me from her holiday in Greece for the second interview.’

Christina continued, ‘For me, the only problem was not seeing the work space or meeting colleagues as I only spoke to managers via the video link. But I could easily have asked to go and see the office once they’d offered the job. I’m certain that would have been fine.’

For all those about to have a video call virtual interview, read our tips before you dive in.

Virtual Interview Tips for Candidates

  1. Practise  Get a friend or family member to video-call you and ask you some basic interview questions. Like giving a speech, practise makes perfect before a virtual interview. It will allow you to get used to seeing yourself on screen if using Facetime. Find somewhere to prop the phone, or put the laptop somewhere stable. Make sure you then sit fairly still and smile reasonably naturally!
  2. Plan  Think ahead about what to wear in your virtual interview. If you’re at home a full suit may feel odd. Wear something smart but casual for most travel jobs. But let the position you’re going for inform you about how to present yourself, and if unsure ask your recruitment agent for their opinion.
  3. Position  Work out where will you be to take the call. If you’re having to do the interview during a lunch hour in a job you’re already in, make sure you can talk openly and that you’re somewhere quiet. Go to a neutral space like a hotel lobby or quiet cafe, for example, if you can’t be in a quiet room at home.
  4. Background  What can the interviewer see behind you? Find a pleasant neutral background. Like it or not, people will make visual judgements, so if you have a wall full of ‘I love Trump’ posters, or a sink piled high with dirty dishes, the interviewer may jump to certain conclusions about you. They won’t know that those things belong to your housemates, not you.

There are numerous benefits of virtual interviews, of course. They save time and money, particularly if you’re applying for a job in a different city or country. They’re easy to arrange, too.

Most candidates I deal with like virtual interviews on the whole. Some say that getting the camera angle right is an issue. My advice is to practise this with a friend, as in the tips above. Find something to rest a phone on so that it gives a flattering angle and isn’t pointing up your nose. And use light well – do the interview in a room with natural light if possible, and if not make sure that lights aren’t shining directly at your face.

There is still an element of nerves for candidates before a virtual interview. Where they may have worried before about getting to the interview on time, and about train or traffic delays, now they worry about internet signal and how they come across on camera. Again, our advice is always to think and plan ahead. Obviously go somewhere where there is decent broadband and where you’re free to talk openly.

Treat a virtual interview exactly the same way you would a face-to-face interview. Be prepared by doing all your research on the industry, company and role, have your notes to hand, dress appropriately and plan where you will take the call. Then relax, smile and be yourself.

Need great travel talent, contact Claire Pidgeon on LinkedIn here.

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